Sandiganbayan acquits mayor of graft on P38-M plaza rehabilitation project

Published December 3, 2021, 7:06 AM

by Jel Santos


The Sandiganbayan has acquitted Mayor Hermenegildo A. Gualberto of San Fernando City in La Union of graft charges on alleged irregularities in the P38 million project to rehabilitate the city plaza in 2018.

Gualberto was charged with allegedly giving unwarranted advantage, preference and benefit to J.D. Madrid Construction –R.G. Tabin Construction and Supply in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The prosecution claimed that “there was neither a specific or itemized appropriation ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of San Fernando for the project or authorization by said Sanggunian for accused to enter into a contract….”

However, the Sandiganbayan – in a decision written by Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna – ruled that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges against Gualberto.

With the judgment of acquittal, the anti-graft court ordered the release of the P90,000 cash bond posted by Gualberto and lifted the hold departure order (HDO) issued against him.

The Sandiganbayan, citing a Supreme Court decision, said:

“In our criminal justice system, the overriding consideration is not whether the court doubts the innocence of the accused, but whether it entertains a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.

“Where there is no moral certainty as to their guilt, they must be acquitted even though their innocence may be questionable. The constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can be overthrown only by proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

The dispositive portion of the decision, concurred in by Associate Justices Alex L. Quiroz and Bayani H. Jacinto, stated:

“WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ACQUITTING accused HERMENEGILDO A. GUALBERTO in Criminal Case No. SB-20-CRM-0018 for violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019, the prosecution having failed to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”